REVISITING MY ONE WORD…

Almost two years ago, I wrote my last One Word post about my selection:  CONNECT. 

Dated February 14, 2018, I talked about ways I once connected (in college), or at work, and how much harder it is now.

The word CONNECT always reminds me of how different my life is nowadays…and how, back in college, connecting was not something you really had to think about.  There were so many new people to meet, and classes to attend with potential new connections.

In my career as a social worker, connecting with people was a daily routine, although my role in these interactions was quite different than it was in college.  I was a listener, a guide, an advocate…and I came to relish the role.  Not something that works for me now, though.

 

Of course, in today’s world, we have online opportunities, and I’m not negating the value of social media.  Without it, I would  be truly isolated.  But I have to go outside my comfort zone to find real-life connections. 

 

 

Well, imagine how something totally unexpected and life-changing has made connecting in a whole new way both possible and life-affirming. My life took a nose dive earlier this year due to an unexpected illness. hospitalization, and surgery.  I was uprooted from my apartment and I am now in a residential senior citizens facility.  Fortunately, I am in the independent section, but a community dining room and several activity centers are a kind of “enforced connecting” that took that particular decision out of my hands.

I have my own apartment, of course, and can choose not to go to the dining room or any of the activities.  But, in light of my desire to connect more, I am suddenly facing lots of opportunities.

In the dining room, some of us have chosen a big table with six residents, and we are discovering lots of ways to interact with one another.

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So that is where I am on this journey…still trying to connect, and discovering new ways of doing so.

How are you managing with your One Word?

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REVIEW: THE CONFESSION CLUB, BY ELIZABETH BERG

 

When a group of friends in Mason, Missouri, decide to start a monthly supper club, they get more than they bargained for. The plan for congenial evenings—talking, laughing, and sharing recipes, homemade food, and wine—abruptly changes course one night when one of the women reveals something startlingly intimate. The supper club then becomes Confession Club, and the women gather weekly to share not only dinners but embarrassing misdeeds, deep insecurities, and long-held regrets.

They invite Iris Winters and Maddy Harris to join, and their timing couldn’t be better. Iris is conflicted about her feelings for a charming but troubled man, and Maddy has come back home from New York to escape a problem too big to handle alone. The club offers exactly the kind of support they need to help them make some difficult decisions.

 

My Thoughts: The Confession Club, the third in the Mason series, is full of characters that feel so real that I can’t wait to see what each one will do. I liked that characters from previous books show up in this newest outing. Maddy has been featured in each book, and I’ve loved seeing how she has grown with time and her challenges. Iris is another favorite, brought forward from a previous book.

John is a new character, and I was eager to see what would develop with him.

In the supper club meetings, we learn more about each character, their personalities distinctive and on display.

The author grabbed me from the very beginning, so reading along and seeing what would happen next felt a lot like spending time with friends. Another delightful journey with the residents of Mason. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM, BY PETER SWANSON

 

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . .

My Thoughts: Before She Knew Him is a fascinating character study with alternating voices. We first meet Hen after she and her husband Lloyd have moved into their new neighborhood. After meeting next door neighbors Matthew and Mira, the two join them for dinner. Discovering the sports trophy in Matthew’s office sets Hen off on an obsessive journey, one that she has been on before.

Her past, with some psychotic behavior, reminds her that her current behavior is like a red flag warning her not to follow this path. But she is unable to steer clear, even following and stalking Matthew.

When we join Matthew’s perspective, we learn a lot about his own obsessions…and how he is also fascinated by Hen and her art. He senses that she is a kindred spirit, and draws her into his dark mind.

What will happen to the two of them, and will their knowledge of each other take them on an even darker journey? How will the journey into Matthew’s past take Hen into the world of another character? Will that discovery reveal unexpected things? And how will the frightening path lead Hen into a time before she had met Matthew, showing a deeper connection? A gripping 5 star read.

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WEEKLY UPDATES: LET’S MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS…

Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

 

For a holiday week, I got a lot done.  Well, sort of.  LOL.  I finished my third book of the week this morning, and as I savored the moments with the MC, I realized how much I enjoy that kind of book.  I love my thrillers, but I am inspired by novels that I can sink into and connect with the characters. 

I am ready for First Books of the Year!  I have my book, and I’ve sent off my photo.  On Tuesday morning, I will publish the post that reveals all.  I love this event!  Thanks, Sheila.

Earlier this week, on Christmas morning, I enjoyed brunch with family and friends.  Quiche, coffee cake, fruit, and Mimosas…the perfect way to celebrate.

For the rest of the week, I have stayed indoors except for necessary shopping…and curled up with my books.

I did write some blog posts:  seven of them.  And I enjoyed Netflix, finishing Season 3 of Wanted and allowed myself to be terrified by Bird Box.

As we grab another cup of coffee or beverage, let’s take a closer look.

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Sunday Potpourri:  Discovering the Spirit of the Holidays…

Tuesday Excerpts:  “Sophie Last Seen”

Merry Christmas from My Interiors to Yours…

Enjoying My Book Treasures…

Coffee Chat:  Transitioning to a New Year

Bookish Friday:  “Sadie”

Favorite 2018 Books:  Let’s Curl up and Read…

Review:  The Adults (e-book), by Caroline HulseReview:  The Affliction (e-book), by Beth GutcheonReview:  Emily, Alone (e-book), by Stewart O’Nan

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INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Empty mailbox!  I did download one new e-book.

Our Little Lies (e-book), by Sue Watson

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WHAT’S NEXT?

I’m currently reading Sophie Last Seen, a review book by Marlene Adelstein.

And my First Book of the Year will be unveiled on 1/1/19, right here on this blog.

***

That was my week…and with a New Year ahead, I am eager to make changes in my reading, as well as in following my One Word (Connect), which was almost an epic fail this past year.  Yes, I maintained my online connections, and tried to stay in touch with family and friends…but I didn’t join a book club as planned, nor did I develop new connections.

What did your week (and year) look like?  Here is a delicious brunch I had earlier this week:  Pain Perdu with mixed berries, from Mimi’s.  And a delicious Mimosa.

***

REVIEW: BEACH BLISS, BY JOANNE DEMAIO

 

Blue skies and smooth seas return to the coastal community of Stony Point. Until a new arrival in this little New England beach town sets forth a competition like no other. As the temperature rises beneath the summer sun, so do the antics and good-natured fun.

Join Jason Barlow, Maris, Kyle, Elsa and the rest of the gang for another unforgettable season at the shore. The sound of gulls and lapping waves are calling you to the page … for a summer read that’s purely Beach Bliss.

My Thoughts: I love joining in with familiar characters who feel like friends, and in Beach Bliss, the crew is all there at Stony Point Beach.

This time, we are watching as Elsa finishes renovating her cottage into Ocean Star Inn, with the help of architect Jason Barlow. Jason’s wife Maris is Elsa’s niece, and is trying to finish writing Neil’s manuscript. The accident that killed Neil seriously injured his brother Jason, and Jason still struggles with the after-effects, both physically and emotionally.

Elsa’s son Sal died the year before, and his fiancée Celia was pregnant at the time, and now has a baby she named Aria.

Everyone in the community has taken the two under their wings…and even organized a series of “godfather contests.” Funny and poignant moments carry us along. I especially enjoyed how the old Foley’s Back Room remained intact in the inn, as part of their past and their history.

The godfather contests were the least interesting aspects to me, but I did smile when the women set out to find their own way to enjoy a piece of the godfather action. As the rest of the novel picked up and carried us along to Aria’s christening and Jason’s attempt to find out more about a mysterious cottage, I was once again glued to the pages. 5 stars.

***

EXPLORING CONNECTIONS: MY ONE WORD

Is it time to chat about my One Word?  The word CONNECT always reminds me of how different my life is nowadays…and how, back in college, connecting was not something you really had to think about.  There were so many new people to meet, and classes to attend with potential new connections.

In my career as a social worker, connecting with people was a daily routine, although my role in these interactions was quite different than it was in college.  I was a listener, a guide, an advocate…and I came to relish the role.  Not something that works for me now, though.

 

Of course, in today’s world, we have online opportunities, and I’m not negating the value of social media.  Without it, I would  be truly isolated.  But I have to go outside my comfort zone to find real-life connections. 

Last week I had a spontaneous conversation in a neighborhood restaurant and learned about a nearby book club  that I want to explore.  And, of course, I regularly go to restaurants and bookstores, where I can strike up conversations.  Because I am “older,” nobody seems to take offense.  LOL.

***

Now that I’ve shared my explorations, I am truly excited about some new books approved by NetGalley lately, bringing my total unread ARCs to NINE.  With so many books to read, how much time is there to connect?  See what I did? My introversion is showing.

Today I got approval for The High Tide Club, by Mary Kay Andrews – (Release Date:  5/8/18)

Last week, I downloaded Paris Ever After, by K.S.R. Burns (Release Date – 5/1/18)

***

Soon I will start reading my March books:

The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian (March 13)

Alternate Side, by Anna Quindlen (3/20/18)

Not That I Could Tell, by Jessica Strawser (3/27/18)

***

I have three ARCs that will be released in April, and three in May, two of which were mentioned at the top of the post.

I love planning out my reading.

What books are you eagerly waiting to read? 

***

REVIEW: A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS, BY ASHLEY HAY

 

When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.

In her nearby nursing home, Elsie traces the span of her life—the moments she can’t bear to let go and the places to which she dreams of returning. Her beloved former house is at the heart of her memories of marriage, motherhood, love, and death, and the boundary between present and past becomes increasingly porous for both her and Lucy.

My Thoughts: Like a character in its own right, the small cottage in Brisbane was home to Elsie Gormley, her husband Clem, and her twins, Don and Elaine. After Elsie moved into a care facility, her grown children sold the house to Ben Carter, Lucy Kiss and their young son Tom.

A Hundred Small Lessons is an unfolding of their life stories, through alternating narratives. We visualize them in the past and the present, in a non-linear fashion, and occasionally, they almost seem to be in the same time/space spectrum, crossing paths in the old house as they experience significant moments.

Sometimes Lucy feels Elsie’s presence, almost as if the old woman has come to visit in the middle of the night. Mysterious things happen…like roses appearing from an unknown giver. Lucy believes that Elsie is there with her, possibly even speaking to her…but Ben dismisses these “happenings” as Lucy’s imagination.

I loved the image of characters connecting at various points in their journeys…and seemingly walking similar pathways, while experiencing their lives in different eras, from the 1940s to the present. A poignant story that also reminds us of the passage of time and the memories that sustain us. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: LAST ONE HOME, BY DEBBIE MACOMBER

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Cassie Carter has been struggling to work her way out of the dark hole her life has become. Escaping her abusive marriage would lead her toward a new life at last. She and her twelve-year-old daughter Amiee long for a home of their own, the kind of place that Cassie thinks about when she remembers happier times. Memories of the childhood games of hide-and-seek and calling out “last one home is it” shine through, reminding her that she can move forward and create her own family.

It has been thirteen years since Cassie has seen her sisters, Karen and Nichole, and sometimes the pain is almost unbearable. Her parents died a few years before, and their loss is a constant reminder of broken ties.

Because she ran away with Duke, leaving behind her family and her scholarship, her sisters have been unable to forgive her.

But nowadays, Cassie has hope. She has her cosmetologist’s license, a growing clientele, and there is a promise of a new home ahead, as she has been approved for a Habitat for Humanity house.

Can Cassie’s dream of a home really happen? Will she and her daughter finally heal from the past? Will Cassie be able to reconnect with her sisters, rebuilding the broken relationships? And finally, can there be love again?

Last One Home: A Novel is an inspirational story that reminds us of hope, dreams, and starting over. Another enjoyable read from this author. 4.0 stars.

REVIEW: DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY, BY BILL CLEGG

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In a small Connecticut town, several individuals are caught up in a tragedy that ultimately links them, and through the pages, the author takes us into the lives of some of these individuals, revealing past and present choices, and leading us to a place of understanding just what happened that day.

It happens the night before the wedding between June’s daughter Lolly and her fiancé Will. At a time when everyone has gathered to celebrate, the explosion kills everyone but June.

The multiple narrators are somehow connected to those who were killed, and separate chapters are devoted to each of them, sometimes in first person and other times, third person. Each narrator has been somehow scarred by events, both before and after the tragedy. Some have been living outside societal norms, clinging to what sets them apart, as if the familiar roles they have fallen into are too comfortable to change. What truths have kept each of them outsiders? Who are they? There is Lydia, whose son Luke was also killed, but is somehow blamed for the tragedy. And then there is June, who was Luke’s older lover, dubbed a cougar by the townsfolk. And then there are Rebecca and Kelly, who live in Moclips, Washington, as far from events as could be, but somehow they are connected to what happened by virtue of offering refuge to one of them.

How did June escape the tragedy, walking away without an identification, to find that refuge? Why did the small town folk believe only the worst about Luke and Lydia? And even though she was from a more polished life, why did they also seem to shun June?

Did You Ever Have A Family could be a poignant view of small town life, with all of its flaws and foibles, reminding us that sometimes the people we choose to dismiss are more like us than not, and that understanding goes a long way toward forgiveness.

The characters’ stories were intimate and insightful. Even though I struggled at times to make the connections between the numerous characters, by the end I could see a clear picture forming. 4 stars.

REVIEW: DEAR DAUGHTER, BY ELIZABETH LITTLE

 

 

81wMk-xe5RL._SL1500_Synopsis: Former “It Girl” Janie Jenkins is sly, stunning, and fresh out of prison. Ten years ago, at the height of her fame, she was incarcerated for the murder of her mother, a high-society beauty known for her good works and rich husbands. Now, released on a technicality, Janie makes herself over and goes undercover, determined to chase down the one lead she has on her mother’s killer. The only problem? Janie doesn’t know if she’s the killer she’s looking for.

The fun in Dear Daughter: A Novel is trying to figure out who did what, as we trail along behind Janie in her disguise as Rebecca. Her search for answers leads her to South Dakota, and what she discovers there will keep us hopping throughout this journey.

Who had the most to gain by killing Janie’s mother and framing her? What secrets lie in the small towns of Ardelle and Adeline? Is anyone buying Janie’s disguise, or is her gig up before she even completes it?

There were times when I was confused by the numerous characters and connections Janie/Rebecca came across in South Dakota. I often had to keep checking to see who was related to whom. But throughout, Janie was clearly a well-drawn character.

In many ways, she was an unlikeable character, but I found myself rooting for her anyway. In the end, I was stunned by the unexpected reveal. And then disappointed by the final denouement. 3.5 stars.